After the election: Time for unionists to look outwards?

Interesting thoughts from Arthur Aughey on Open Unionism. There are few safe conclusions to draw from the Westminster election result, save that Peter Robinson was given the bum’s rush by a unionist electorate which is considerably more sensitive to the personal conduct of its leaders affairs, than nationalism. And the Michelle Gildnernew victory which was considered by many nationalists in FST (and far beyond) a botched attempt at a sectarian stitch up. Oh, and there was that little matter of the TUV’s routing by the DUP.

So in rough summation Aughey argues that that the fetishisation of ‘unity’ amongst unionists is distracting them from building an attractive political option for the Northern Irish electorate:

What is needed is a new generation of politicians with new ideas who can reflect the diverse currents within that electorate. I would suggest that a single unionist party is unlikely to encourage that. The unionist voter is often considered primitive in outlook, fearful and anxious. However, as Anthony McIntyre wrote in the aftermath of the recent General Election, unionist voters had shown the capacity to think and to act on that thinking, especially in East Belfast:

‘Unionism, long considered obstinate and incapable of change, usually fared poorly in the eyes of the international community compared to their nationalist opponents. Now a considerable swathe of unionist opinion has demonstrated its lack of regard for the less that wholesome behaviour of its key leader.’

He concluded that ‘unionism has been considerably strengthened by seizing the moral high ground. Coupled with the Tories being back in office the future might not look orange but it certainly looks bright for the union’.

He concludes:

It is not unionism which is under threat, it is the republican project which has imploded. I think mobilising for unionist unity is to play yesterday’s game and waste political energy that could be better expended elsewhere in these favourable political circumstances. Blogs like Open Unionism show that there is a fund of political intelligence to be tapped and Open Unionism should be the motif of contemporary political debate. It is time for unionists to look outwards rather than to retreat within.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty